Visual Arts in Iran has a three thousand year history. Cinema in Iran is nearly as old as Cinema itself. Within a few short years after its advent, cinema was brought to Iran with the royal court in 1900. By 1905 the first movie theaters were opened and in 1925 the first film school was established in Iran. In 1930 the first Iranian feature film was produced and the modern art form began taking root in a fertile cultural landscape enriched by centuries of visual, poetic and literary tradition.
Despite this long history, Iranian cinema has faced many challenges; some from a political landscape struggling with the pains of despotism, revolutions, wars and evolution, and some brought about by a society entrenched in dogma and blind tradition. In fact by 1909, movie theaters were shut down and film production came to a halt in Iran only to be rebuilt by dedicated artists like Ovanes Ohanian. Despite these early growth pains, cinema was firmly engrained within the fabric of Iranian arts and culture.
With the efforts of early masters like Ohanian and Sepanta who drew from the rich classical literary culture of Iran, to mid-century visionaries like Koushan and Ghaffari who institutionalized film production in Iran, Cinema became an integral part of modern Iranian Art. After recuperating from the ravages of the second World War, Iranian filmmakers re-emerged with a tidal wave of modern literary and poetic renaissance. By 1969, the modest gravel road of the Iranian film industry was paved yet again by visionary modern artists who reached for new horizons. From Samuel Khachikian to Ebrahim Golestan, Forough Farrokhzad, Dariush Mehrjoui and Masoud Kimiaei just to name a few, Iranian cinema was expanding in every direction, from documentary to fiction and from experimental to mainstream commercial productions. By the early 1970’s Iranian filmmakers such as Sohrab Shahid-Saless, Amir Naderi, Ali Hatami and Bahram Beyzaei have firmly established the potential of Iranian cinema on the world stage.
Today, Iranian cinema holds a special place in the world as it charges ahead through a thorny landscape. Contemporary Iranian filmmakers continue to innovate and express themselves on a path that was paved and re-paved for over a century. This year, the Tirgan Biannual Festival in
Toronto is proud to present a representative sample of the past, present and future of this vibrant artistic tradition from Iran.
This article originally appeared in the 2017 edition of Tirgan Magazine.
- Ali Hatami’s “Hassan Kachal” from 1970 is a major turning point in the rich history of Iranian cinema. A classical tale masterfully directed as a musical in color demonstrates the potential of pure Iranian storytelling through the medium of Cinema.
- Bahram Beyzaie’s “Downpour” from 1972 is the directorial debut of a major voice in Iranian theatre and cinema. The recipient of this years Lifetime Achievement Award, Mr. Beyzaei’s contributions to modern Iranian theatre, literature and film has been inspirational to many generations.
Razor’s Edge: The Legacy of Iranian Actresses
- Bahman Maghsoudlou’s “The Razor’s Edge” released this year is a labour of love many years in the making that celebrates the important role of women in Iranian cinema. This precious documentary portrays the unsung heroes of Iranian cinema from the beginning to this day.
Hey, Humans (Āy Ādamha)
- Rakhshan Banietemad’s “Hey, Humans” is a documentary that celebrates humanity at its purest depicting the tireless efforts of dedicated volunteers helping needy children with life saving medical treatment.
Six Centuries, Six Years
- Mojtaba Mirtahmasb’s “Six Centuries and Six Years” is a documentary that puts Iranian Classical Music in historical perspective through the sound and voice of contemporary artists who not only strive to maintain but also to help in the evolution of this rich Iranian art form.
Being Born (Be Donya Amadan)
- Mohsen Abdulwahab’s “Being Born” is a rare example of pure independent filmmaking in Iran. The film blurs the lines between fiction and the stark reality of real life in contemporary urban Iran.
- Abbas Amini’s “Walderama” is yet another one of the independent diamonds in the rough of contemporary Iranian cinema that follows the aspirations and yearnings of Iran’s youth with the same innocence as its protagonist.
Under the Shadow
- Babak Anvari’s “Under The Shadow” is a bold emergence of Iranian storytelling outside of Iran. Packaged as a horror film, the film portrays the ravages of war in one of the darkest periods in modern Iranian history.
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